With communities, or any fanbase/list, you’ll have people who lose interest, or never get engaged enough, and move on. There will always be a certain level of acceptable churn but that will depend on your industry and business model. In this post we will address how to fix or prevent community churn.
Churn Tends To Happen Early In Membership
While you can look at your CRM to see where in your member cycle members are leaving or stop participating, it’s usually safe to assume that a lot of churn happens early after joining the community, somewhere between minutes to weeks after first signing up.
This usually indicates your onboarding process is the culprit.
For instance any of the following elements can cause issues:
Lack of content and activity – It’s very disappointing to sign up for a community, to be approved, and then find out that the community has no recent activity or content. This happens a lot with Slack or Facebook communities, but I’ve seen it with bbforums and other older forum versions.
When it happens with a community that died for one reason or another that’s one thing, but to join a community that is supposed to be active and it doesn’t have commenting, new posts, likes, etc, it’s very disappointing to the member and you’ll likely lose them quickly.
To fix this, post new content regularly, have at least a small group of people you can easily ask to help you with new content by commenting, liking, etc. I would suggest a small group of 8-12 people so that the community seems a good handful of active members other than themselves.
Long application process – unless this is immediate, members may start to lose interest. The application process can sometimes get prospects to think it’s an exclusive opportunity, but when it takes someone days to weeks to approve new members, you are significantly impacting the chances they will return and become active members.
No established relationships – Early in the onboarding process it’s nice to get members connected with someone in the community. For early communities this means the Community Manager should be connecting with everyone possible. For later communities, I always focus on building relationships with active members (those who are commenting on the content, or posting content). You’ll see in my article on Things That Don’t Scale how this helps with growth.
Lack of interesting activity/content – Depending on the size of your community you’ll have people that range from new to the topics to more experienced experts.
Sometimes, there will be too much content for one the cohorts (sections of your members) and the other will be disinterested, so you have to find a happy medium for both, making sure all members are interested. One way to do this is to design events or curate content that will address interesting topics for all member cohorts.
Not keeping members notified of top content – One of the most useful assets you can create is an interesting weekly newsletter covering all of the great information from your community during the week.
It should include top comments, images, member spotlights, industry news, and opinion threads that will draw readers to come back to the community to participate.
Lack of Fun – Sometimes communities are too technical or professional and members need to have a little fun. There’s always room for an interesting debate, a thread that let’s members share pictures of their pets, or other personal aspects.
This also helps members open up and connect with each other. Read more about including fun in this post by Erica Kuhl a community expert with several years of experience with the Salesforce community.
Asking for too much information – when members are signing up, you want to collect enough information that you can accurately target the member in the future. You might want to offer a personal experience so you need to understand their favorite topics, or you want to understand what their job role is so that you can offer relatable ad offers.
The more data you have, the more you can work with technology to give a unique experience, however members do not want to spend a lot of time entering information before jumping into the community.
Instead, onboarding (on your site) can be a process that takes time over many days. This keeps the member engaged while also collecting the information you need for business purposes.
A community onboarding example:
- Get the immediate information you need to allow members to join – name, email, username, password.
- Ask them to upload an image (statistically members who do this are more likely to be active future members).
- Lead them to post, ask a question, or answer a question in your community. Getting them active as soon as possible helps them to immediately get the connection and information that are considered wins for new members.
- Share related posts in an email the next day.
- When they revisit the site share a pop up about finishing their profile or ask Which of these are your favorite topics? with easy to choose buttons (design and accessibility affect your success rate of getting answers).
- As they continue to visit, ask more questions until they click through to finish the profile or they’ve answered all of your questions.
- Keep sending them emails with related content – every couple of days until you role them into your weekly newsletter.
- Test this process to see where you are getting the results you need, and making adjustments to improve churn results.
Another cause of churn is when members lose interest over time. This does happen, peoples’ hobbies evolve, jobs change (important for business communities), and they stop having time when life changes (having a baby, getting married, moving).
This is a normal part of dealing with any community/email list/fanbase. But it still helps to prevent churn as much as possible because when your members are leaving, your growth methods have to make up the difference.
Community churn can be frustrating, but it’s a safe bet to start with your onboarding process and early member cycle. You can also refer to your CRM and database to see when you are losing members, or conduct community member interviews to understand where people might not be satisfied with the community.
If you struggle with member churn, contact me and I’ll give you some advice based on your community specifics.